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Academy Makes It Official: Eddie Murphy to Host Oscars

Selection marks return to old-style Oscar-host resume: an actor with standup comic experience

Confirming the news that set Oscar-watchers buzzing over the weekend, the Academy announced on Tuesday that Eddie Murphy will host the 84th Academy Awards.

The 50-year-old actor and comedian was reportedly the first choice of Oscar show producer Brett Ratner, who directed Murphy and Ben Stiller in the upcoming action comedy "Tower Heist."

Eddie MurphyThe Academy, including president Tom Sherak, signed off on Murphy's selection on Tuesday – and, as TheWrap suggested it would over the weekend, immediately issued the press release announcing the actor as host of the event, which will occur Feb. 26 in Los Angeles.

Murphy has appeared on the Oscar show several times in the past 25 years, most recently when he presented Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2009. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor two years earlier for "Dreamgirls," but lost to Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine."

Murphy, who spent most of that awards season as the odds-on favorite to win, famously left the Kodak Theater soon after his category was announced.

“Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever,” said Ratner in the Academy press release announcing Murphy's selection. “With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances – especially on stage – I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February.”

Added Ratner's fellow producer, Don Mischer, “Eddie is a truly ground-breaking performer, whose amazingly diverse array of roles has won him a devoted audience of all ages. His quick wit and charisma will serve him very well as Oscar host.”

A former standup comedian and "Saturday Night Live" cast member, Murphy has appeared in more than three dozen films – including, early in his career, the hits "48 Hrs," "Trading Places" and the "Beverly Hills Cop" series. His film career slumped for much of the 1990s, though in recent years he has done voice work in the popular "Shrek" series.

The selection of Murphy by Ratner and Mischer returns the Oscar hosting job back to the kind of performer who handled the gig for most of the past two decades. Beginning in 1990, when Billy Crystal hosted the show for the first time, Oscar producers turned for 19 straight years to performers who had made movies but who also had standup comic experience.

Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Martin all took multiple turns hosting, while Jon Stewart did the job twice and David Letterman, Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres hosted once each. (Even the TV-bred Letterman, Stewart and DeGeneres had made films before hosting the Oscars.)

In 2009, producers Bill Condon and Lawrence Mark turned away from the comic-actor route, which had begun to seem old hat, and booked the actor Hugh Jackman for a well-received turn at the helm. But the past two Oscar shows – which were hosted by the curiously flat teaming of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in 2010, and the widely-panned duo of Anne Hathaway and James Franco earlier this year – resulted in many within the Academy wondering if there wasn't a lot to be said for the old-style use of a host with standup experience.

For his part, Ratner made it clear from the start that he wanted to produce a funny Oscar show: "Comedy is the key," he told TheWrap on the day he was announced as producer.

“I am enormously honored to join the great list of past Academy Award hosts from Hope and Carson to Crystal, Martin and Goldberg, among others,” said Murphy in the release.  “I’m looking forward to working with Brett and Don on creating a show that is enjoyable for both the fans at home and for the audience at the Kodak Theatre as we all come together to celebrate and recognize the great film contributions and collaborations from the past year."

(Photo by Ivan Vejar/AMPAS)